← Today I Learned

Style shadow trees from the light DOM

I’ve been really enjoying the web component library Shoelace as a replacement for framework-specific UI libraries like Radix.

Shoelace uses the shadow DOM to encapsulate its markup from the light DOM (aka the rest of the page), which means that class selectors can’t reach it. This presents a problem for CSS utility frameworks like Tailwind, which use classes for everything.

Web components can use the part attribute to let outside stylesheets select elements in shadow DOM. For example, here’s the shadow tree of Shoelace’s Switch component:

<label part="base" class=" switch switch--medium ">
  <input class="switch__input" type="checkbox" role="switch" title name aria-checked="false" />

  <span part="control" class="switch__control">
    <span part="thumb" class="switch__thumb"></span>

  <div part="label" class="switch__label">

CSS in the light DOM can’t select these elements using classes like switch__control — it needs to select these elements using the ::part() pseudo-element:

sl-switch::part(control) {
  background-color: red;

sl-switch::part(thumb) {
  background-color: white;

Although Tailwind can’t target these parts out of the box, you can write a plugin to do it using dynamic variants (Tailwind classes that accept arbitrary values):

const plugin = require("tailwindcss/plugin");

module.exports = {
  plugins: [
    plugin(function ({ matchVariant }) {
      matchVariant("part", value => `&::part(${value})`);

This adds a part modifier that you can use like this:

<sl-switch class="part-[control]:bg-red-500 part-[thumb]:bg-white part-[thumb]:rounded">